- Imperial Invectives against Constantius II: Athanasius of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers and Lucifer of Cagliari by Richard Flower
The fourth century can justifiably be characterized as the age of imperial rhetoric. Especially when compared with the [End Page 519] preceding and subsequent centuries, a substantial number of imperial orations has been passed down both in Latin and Greek: eleven Panegyrici Latini, three laudatory speeches by Symmachus, a Laus Constantini by Eusebius, speeches by Julian in praise of Constantius and his wife Eusebia, and a considerable number of orations on emperors by Themistius. These panegyrics represent an especially characteristic and significant product of the culture of Late Antiquity and are important sources for our understanding of the office of emperorship. Central to the laudatory orations are the emperor's virtues and deeds; they present a picture of how an emperor should rule, what can be expected from him, and what his qualities and virtues are or should be.
On the opposite side of the spectrum are imperial invectives, that is, speeches assigning blame to a sovereign. A handful of these invectives have survived. Notable in this respect is the De Regno by Synesius of Cyrene. Upon failing to gain an audience with the emperor Arcadius (395–408), Synesius vented his irritation by listing the virtues and duties of an ideal king—and reporting the faults of Arcadius' reign. Imperial invectives might also have a theological cast, such as those translated by Flower. The bishops Athanasius of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, and Lucifer of Cagliari composed invectives against the emperor Constantius II (337–361) because of his support for Arianism, a form of Christianity that, in their view, was unacceptable as it insisted on the subordination of the Son to the Father.
Late antique speeches have largely been studied individually and mostly from a rhetorical and literary perspective. As historical sources, both panegyrics and invectives have long been dismissed. Modern scholarship, however, now recognizes the value of these speeches as engagements with the political culture of the time in general, as well as for the light they might shed on the political and religious policy of individual emperors. As a consequence, these speeches are receiving considerable scholarly attention as, for instance, in the international Panegyrici Latini project (http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/classics/panegyric/). Translations of these texts have also become available in recent decades: the English annotated translation of the Panegyrici Latini by Nixon and Saylor Rodgers (Berkeley 1994), the German translation of Themistius's 'Staatsreden' by Leppin and Portman (Stuttgart 1998), or the English translation of a selection of Themistius's orations by Heather and Moncur in the series Translated Texts for Historians (Liverpool 2001). This series now includes Flower's translation of the three bishops' invectives against Constantius II.
Flower is an expert on these invectives. In 2013 he published a monograph entitled Emperors and Bishops in Late Roman Invectives with Cambridge University Press. As Flower himself remarks in the preface, Imperial Invectives against Constantius II should be seen as a counterpart to his 2013 monograph, as it provides translations of the most important texts discussed in that book.
The volume contains a new English translation of Athanasius' Historia Arianorum, as well as the first English translations of Hilary of Poitiers' In Constantium and Lucifer of Cagliari's Moriundum esse pro dei filio. The texts by Hilary and Lucifer are directly addressed to Constantius while Athanasius' History of the Arians refers to the emperor in the third person. All three texts were [End Page 520] composed around 360. All three men were victims of decisions by church councils dominated by Arians and were exiled from their sees. And, although they belong to different genres, they each defend the orthodox cause, that is, the creed of Nicaea, and fiercely attack Arianism and its adherents. They are particularly united by "their polemical tone and personal invective that they direct against the emperor" (35).
Constantius is in all...